Monday, February 19, 2024

Iraq snapshot

Monday, February 6, 2024.  The number of people killed in Gaza since October 7th stands now at over 29,000, protests took place over the weekend, activists call for a boycott of McDonalds, the Israeli government refuses to allow the World Health Organization to inspect Nasser Hospital, and much more.

AFP reported Sunday, "Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva accused Israel Sunday of committing 'genocide' against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and compared its actions to Adolf Hitler's campaign to exterminate Jews."  They also note that Israeli President Isaac Herzog is having a pissy fit over the comment.  This is a genocide and the abused, over time, can become the abusers.  That's nothing new in the world of psychology. But Herzog does realize that the state of Israel was created in 1948, right?  Not during the Holocaust.  Jorge L Ortiz (USA TODAY) adds:

Netanyahu said on social media that the Brazilian ambassador to Israel would be called in for “a stern reprimand,” and said Lula crossed “a red line.”

In a translation of his post in Hebrew, Netanyahu called Lula’s statements “shameful” and added. “This is about trivializing the Holocaust and trying to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Netanyahu is murdering innocents and facing legal charges of corruption but he's calling Lula "shameful"? 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We turn to Gaza, to a case that’s reverberated around the world. Two weeks ago, January 29th, 6-year-old Hind Rajab climbed into a car with her aunt, her uncle and her cousins in Gaza City as they prepared to flee to the southern part of Gaza. But as they were in the car, an Israeli tank approached them and opened fire. Hind’s 15-year-old cousin Layan called the Red Crescent for help. These were her last words, recorded on the call with a Red Crescent dispatcher.

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] Hello?

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Hello, dear?

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] They are shooting at us.

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Hello?

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] They are shooting at us. The tank is next to me.

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Are you hiding?

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] Yes, in the car. We’re next to the tank.

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Are you inside the car?

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] [screaming]

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Hello? Hello?

AMY GOODMAN: That was 15-year-old Layan’s last words, killed along with the rest of her family. The only one who remained alive was 6-year-old Hind. Wounded, she called the Red Crescent back, pleading with the dispatcher to be rescued.

HIND RAJAB: [translated] Come take me. You will come and take me?

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Do you want me to come and take you?

HIND RAJAB: [translated] I’m so scared. Please come. Please call someone to come and take me.

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] OK, dear, I will come and take you.

AMY GOODMAN: After seeking approval from the Israeli military, two emergency workers with the Palestine Red Crescent, Yusuf Zeino and Ahmed al-Madhoun, went to try to rescue 6-year-old Hind. But dispatchers lost contact with the medics.

Nearly two weeks later, Israeli forces finally withdrew from the area, and on Saturday Hind’s surviving family ventured back to the neighborhood. They found Hind dead inside the car alongside the bodies of five of her family members. The car riddled with bullet holes. The bodies of the two emergency workers were also found in an ambulance nearby, appear to have been killed by Israeli fire just yards away from the car. This is Hind’s mother, Wissam Hamadah, after she learned of her daughter’s killing.

WISSAM HAMADAH: [translated] My heart is completely destroyed over my daughter. Two weeks! They killed them. Two weeks, they were in that car! I’ve told the world from day one, “Please go get Hind.” God is the only one sufficient for us. Everyone failed us. I will tell God on the day of judgment about my daughter. I swear I will never forgive you or any human involved or any human rights organization.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on this case, we’re joined now by Nebal Farsakh, spokesperson for the Palestine Red Crescent Society, joining us from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Nebal, thank you so much for joining us. Tell us everything you know about this case.

NEBAL FARSAKH: Good evening. Thanks for having me.

We at the Palestine Red Crescent were heartbroken and devastated again after learning the fate of our colleagues, Yusuf Zeino and Ahmed al-Madhoun. The ambulance was found bombed just meters away from the car where Hind was trapped.

The story began after we have received a call from the uncles of Hind and Layan, who live overseas, reporting that there’s two little girls are still survived after their family car was targeted by the Israeli tanks. He gave us a phone number. We called, and then Layan picked up the phone. And this is the call which you just previewed. Layan was killed while she was over the phone with our dispatch center.

And then we have called the number again, and Hind picked up the phone. Hind was supposed to turn into 6 years in May, and now she has lost her life. Over three hours, Hind was over the phone with our dispatch center. She was repeatedly seeking help, repeatedly appealing for our teams to come and pick her up.

It took us all of this time, over three hours, in order to coordinate safe access for our ambulances. And once the green light was given, the ambulance headed to the location. And upon its arrival, they have reported that there is a green laser on them, that the Israeli occupation force is pointing a laser on them. And then we have heard a sound of gunfire or a bombardment. It wasn’t that much clear. And the connection was lost.

For over 12 days, we were uncertain regarding the fate of our colleagues, Yusuf and Ahmed, and the little girl, Hind. We were thinking that they might be arrested. There was so many questions, like if they were succeeded to rescue Hind or not, because, basically, also they have confirmed that they can see the car of Hind and they were so close to Hind. I was just devastated to learn that Hind passed away alone. She was killed alone and scared, and our rescue teams were only meters away from her.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you explain the weapon found by the ambulance?

NEBAL FARSAKH: We’re not sure regarding the weapon found next to the ambulance. According to reports, it is an artillery shelling, U.S.-made, was found next to the ambulance, which was bombed by the Israeli occupation forces while they were trying to save 6-year-old Hind.

It’s just so much sad to see paramedics losing their life while they are trying to save people’s life. What was the fault of Yusuf and Ahmed? Their fault was they went in a rescue mission to save a 6-year-old girl. It was a coordinated mission, and the green light was given, and the Israeli occupation forces intentionally bombed the Palestine Red Crescent ambulance, which has clearly the Red Crescent emblem on top of the ambulance and from all the sides. There was no way or no option to be by mistake. It is an intentional targeting. Since the beginning of the war, we have lost 14 PRCS members. All of them were killed while they were on duty trying to save people’s life.

AMY GOODMAN: And what has the Israeli military explained to you, given that you got permission for your rescue workers to go rescue Hind, as the world heard her 6-year-old pleas for help?

NEBAL FARSAKH: Up to this moment, the Israeli military didn’t comment or reply at what happened. And even during the 12 days, we have tried repeatedly, even through the ICRC, to ask the Israeli occupation forces regarding what happened to Hind and the rescue team. And all the time they were mentioning they don’t have info regarding this incident. To turn out, after 12 days, they have bombed the ambulance, and still they don’t have info regarding the incident.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to another case. The Palestine Red Crescent has just posted new video online as evidence that their ambulance was shot at and its staff were, quote, “brutally assaulted” by Israeli forces. PRCS said the video was taken around a week ago and shows a Red Crescent paramedic with two black eyes sitting in an ambulance that is pockmarked by bullet holes. The organization says the attack happened as the ambulance crew was delivering oxygen cylinders to Al-Amal Hospital in Gaza. It also stated that Israel had claimed they had transferred the oxygen cylinders to Al-Amal Hospital. Can you explain what took place here in this video that we’re watching?

NEBAL FARSAKH: Yes. For over a week, Al-Amal Hospital was run out of oxygen. This has resulted to three of our patients died because of the lack of oxygen. After we managed to coordinate getting oxygen cylinders to the hospital via the ICRC, our ambulance had to bring the oxygen cylinders from Nasser Hospital and transport them to Al-Amal Hospital. On its way, the ambulance — Israeli occupation forces opened fire at the hospital, and they insult and beat our paramedic, who was trying to move and transport this oxygen cylinder, which is life-saving, for our patients.

This is not the first attack, because at that moment, also a week ago, the Israeli occupation forces raided Al-Amal Hospital. They have destroyed medical equipment, and they dehumanized the medical staff, patients and their companions. They arrested nine of the Palestine Red Crescent members from Al-Amal Hospital, including four doctors and a nurse. They have beaten the staff, denied them — not allowing them to drink water or even to go use the toilet, and they tie their hands on their backs. The situation is extremely dangerous inside Al-Amal Hospital. We are still extremely worried regarding the safety of our teams who were arrested from Al-Amal Hospital. Today, two of them were released, but seven of our PRCS members are still detained up to this moment who were arrested from inside Al-Amal Hospital. Al-Amal Hospital is under besiege and continuous attack for the 25th day. Today, Israeli occupation forces targeted the second floor of the hospital with artillery shelling. Gladly, it only damaged for two of the nursing rooms, but there was no injuries among the staff or the patients. But the situation remains very dangerous, with Israeli tanks are in front of the hospital, besieging the hospital, continuous gunfire and bombardment surrounding the hospital. No one is able to go in or go out of the hospital. There is no food, no water, extreme shortage of medicine and medical supplies inside the hospital. The situation is beyond dire.

AMY GOODMAN: Nebal, I asked you about Israeli response. I want to ask you about the U.S. government response and how important it is. This is a clip of State Department spokesperson Matt Miller at a news conference on Wednesday. He was questioned about the killing of 6-year-old Hind and her family by a reporter from The Intercept, Prem Thakker.

PREM THAKKER: It’s been over two weeks since Israeli forces attacked Hind Rajab’s family, killing her aunt, uncle and cousins, leaving her trapped alone in her vehicle. We heard her pleas to the Red Crescent Society. Two medics were sent, all to be blown up, allegedly, by Israeli forces. I wanted to ask about the status of the inquiry into this, just because it seems if the Israeli government, you know, which seemingly does have a pretty sophisticated operation, is prioritizing this — if they don’t already know which soldiers to interview, for instance, they have Red Crescent calls, timestamps, the location of the Red Crescent staff to, you know, question and rely on — plenty of material to figure out who exactly to inquire with and to figure out who to hold accountable. So I want to first ask about the status of this investigation.

MATTHEW MILLER: Sure. So, I think that question is appropriately directed to the government of Israel. I will say, on behalf of the United States, we have made clear to them that we want that incident to be investigated. They have told us they are investigating it. It’s our understanding that investigation is not yet complete. You should direct questions to them about where it stands. But we want to see it completed as soon as possible. And as I said from this podium several days ago, if accountability is appropriate, we want to be — we want to see accountability put in place.

AMY GOODMAN: Nebal Farsakh, we just have 30 seconds. That’s the State Department spokesperson. How important is pressure from the United States on Israel, as you talked about a U.S. weapon being found near the shelled ambulance?

NEBAL FARSAKH: It is extremely important. The life and the story of Hind should not be end in this way. We’re talking about 6-years-old girl. She was trapped in her family car for hours, after everyone was killed and targeted by Israeli occupation forces. During this, even two paramedics who went to rescue the 6-year-old girl was also targeted, and their ambulance was found. We need to see actions happen and to put Israel accountable for committing such crime against a 6-year-old girl and civilians who were trapped in their car, along with targeting our ambulance.

AMY GOODMAN: Nebal Farsakh, we thank you so much for joining us, spokesperson for Palestine Red Crescent.

Netanyahu is responsible for that six-year-old girl's death, the deaths of her family and two rescue workers.  But, he insists, Lula is the one who crossed "a red line"?  This morning, Australia's ABC notes:

The suggested timing for the offensive came as Israeli strikes across Gaza continued, killing at least 18 people overnight into Sunday, according to medics and witnesses.

A strike in Rafah killed six people, including a woman and three children, and another killed five in Khan Younis, the main target of the Gaza offensive in recent weeks.

The bodies were seen by journalists with the Associated Press.

In Gaza City, which suffered widespread destruction early in the war, an air strike flattened a home, killing seven people, including three women, according to relative Sayed al-Afifi.

In other news, ALJAZEERA reports:

In a statement, the UN rights office says there are “credible allegations” of arbitrary detention, executions and sexual assaults of Palestinian women and children in the Gaza Strip, calling for an urgent and independent investigation.

The report by UN Special Rapporteurs Reem Alsalem, Francesca Albanese and others said at least two female Palestinian detainees were raped while others were “threatened with rape and sexual violence” by Israeli soldiers.

Women and girls were also reportedly held in cages during rain, with no access to food, or executed at their places of shelter while waving white flags.

“Those responsible for these apparent crimes must be held accountable and victims and their families are entitled to full redress and justice,” said the report.

Gaza remains under assault. Day 136 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  ALJAZEERA notes, "At least 107 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes across Gaza in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 29,092 since October 7, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The ministry on its Telegram channel said a total of 69,028 others have been wounded since Israel launched its devastating campaign in the strip."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:

And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."   

ALJAZEERA offers this morning:

  • On Monday, the state of Palestine will be the first of 52 countries to speak as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) begins six days of hearings on Monday.
  • This case focuses on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since 1967.
  • Separately, the United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on Tuesday on an Arab-backed resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, which the United States announced it will veto.

  • Over the weekend, protests took place around the world against the continued assault on Gaza.

     Saturday in Turkey, as ALJAZEERA reports in the video above, hundreds (thousands) marched against the ongoing assault on Gaza.  REUTERS added, "G7 ministers called for 'urgent action to address the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza, particularly the plight of 1.5 million civilians sheltering in Rafah, and they expressed deep concern for the potentially devastating consequences on the civilian population of Israel's further full scale military operation in that area,' according to a statement released by Italy."  The G7?   The Canadian government describes the group,  "The Group of Seven (G7) is an informal grouping of seven of the world’s advanced economies, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union."    Dylan Donnelly (SKY NEWS) noted:

    Scottish Labour has unanimously backed an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, with MSPs calling for "unequivocal" support and putting pressure on the rest of the party.

    All delegates backed Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar's calls for an immediate end to the Israel-Hamas war at the party conference in Glasgow.

    [. . .]

    The vote came as thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through Glasgow to protest outside the conference.

    A march also took place in London on Saturday.  ITV NEWS notes, "Between 200,000 and 250,000 people were expected at the demonstration, according to a spokesman for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The Metropolitan Police put the number at 30,000."  SOCIALIST WORKER adds:

    Around 250,000 people poured onto the streets of London on Saturday. And they would have brought their fury to the Israeli embassy if the cops hadn’t prevented them from gathering directly outside it.

    The march was part of a global day of action, with organisers saying there would be demonstrations in 100 cities in 45 countries. Around 10,000 marched in Glasgow (see below). 

    The imminent Israeli ground offensive in Rafah added to people’s determination on the demonstration, which marched to near the embassy. “It’s unreal that Israel is preparing for an all-out assault on a place where over one million are crammed into a tiny area,” said hospital worker Eileen. 

    “We know it’s happening, everyone knows it will be a massacre and yet the US and Britain make only ineffective noises.” She added that her Unison union needs to do more to put people on the protests.

    [. . .]

    The London protest was part of a global day of action that saw protests in 145 cities and hundreds more towns.

    From Sydney in Australia through Seoul in South Korea to Turkey, solidarity was everywhere. In Oslo, Norway, hundreds gathered in -15 degree Celsius temperatures.

    Up to 50,000 people took to the streets of Dublin. Karen Gearon, who was a shop steward for the Dunnes Stores strikers who protested against apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s, was among those leading the march. She said that there should be sanctions against Israel in the same way there were against South Africa.

    Across Ireland, there were protests including Ennis, Cork, Armagh, Drogheda, Skibbereen, Clonakilty, and Waterford.

    Cities in Italy saw protests, with a large demo in Turin. Thousands marched in Munich, Germany.

    The US saw a wave of demonstrations against president Joe Biden’s backing of Israel. In New York there was a protest following a walkout of school students the day before. Washington, Houston, Philadelphia and San Fransisco all saw lively demonstrations of solidarity.

    In Paris over 10,000 marched and protesters repeatedly focused on the shop chain Carrefour which provides goods for the Israeli army.

    Some 3,000 people took to the streets in the capital of the Spanish state, Madrid, chanting, “Free Palestine, killer Israel.” Six government ministers took part, five from the left party Sumar and one from the Labour-type Socialist party.

    A large banner hung in the centre of the Spanish capital is part of a campaign calling for a boycott of McDonald’s over the company’s alleged support to the Israeli army in its war on Gaza.

    Five people were briefly arrested for the protest, activists said.

    McDonald’s came under fire in October when videos on social media showed the franchise handing out free meals to the Israeli army.

    Earlier this month, McDonald’s announced missing its first quarterly sales target in nearly four years, citing Israel’s war on Gaza as a factor.

    Over the weekend, Nasser Hospital continued to be assaulted as the Israeli government continued its attack on medical facilities.  Alice Cuddy (BBC NEWS) reports:

    Doctors across Gaza have described operating on patients without anaesthetic, turning people with chronic conditions away, and treating rotting wounds with limited medical supplies.

    "Because of the shortage of painkillers we leave patients to scream for hours and hours," one told the BBC.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the state of healthcare in Gaza as being "beyond words".

    It said 23 hospitals in Gaza were not functioning at all as of Sunday - 12 were partially functioning and one minimally.

    The health agency said air strikes and a lack of supplies have "depleted an already under-resourced system".

    At THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, Dr Irfan Galaria writes:

    In late January, I left my home in Virginia, where I work as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and joined a group of physicians and nurses traveling to Egypt with the humanitarian aid group MedGlobal to volunteer in Gaza.

    I have worked in other war zones. But what I witnessed during the next 10 days in Gaza was not war — it was annihilation. At least 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. From Cairo, Egypt’s capital, we drove 12 hours east to the Rafah border. We passed miles of parked humanitarian aid trucks because they weren’t allowed into Gaza. Aside from my team and other envoy members from the United Nations and World Health Organization, there were very few others there.

    Entering southern Gaza on Jan. 29, where many have fled from the north, felt like the first pages of a dystopian novel. Our ears were numb with the constant humming of what I was told were the surveillance drones that circled constantly. Our noses were consumed with the stench of 1 million displaced humans living in close proximity without adequate sanitation. Our eyes got lost in the sea of tents. We stayed at a guest house in Rafah. Our first night was cold, and many of us couldn’t sleep. We stood on the balcony listening to the bombs, and seeing the smoke rise from Khan Yunis.

    As we approached the European Gaza Hospital the next day, there were rows of tents that lined and blocked the streets. Many Palestinians gravitated toward this and other hospitals hoping it would represent a sanctuary from the violence — they were wrong.

    People also spilled into the hospital: living in hallways, stairwell corridors and even storage closets. The once-wide walkways designed by the European Union to accommodate the busy traffic of medical staff, stretchers and equipment were now reduced to a single-file passageway. On either side, blankets hung from the ceiling to cordon off small areas for entire families, offering a sliver of privacy. A hospital designed to accommodate about 300 patients was now struggling to care for more than 1,000 patients and hundreds more seeking refuge.

    There were a limited number of local surgeons available. We were told that many had been killed or arrested, their whereabouts or even their existence unknown. Others were trapped in occupied areas in the north or nearby places where it was too risky to travel to the hospital. There was only one local plastic surgeon left and he covered the hospital 24/7. His home had been destroyed, so he lived in the hospital, and was able to stuff all of his personal possessions into two small hand bags. This narrative became all too common among the remaining staff at the hospital. This surgeon was lucky, because his wife and daughter were still alive, although almost everyone else working in the hospital was mourning the loss of their loved ones.

    Nasser Hospital is in Rafah.  The Israeli government, in the last week alone,  began shooting at people leaving the hospital.  It then blew out a wall and raided the hospital.  Those who haven't been killed by the bullets from Israeli guns die in other ways.  FRANCE 24 notes "that a WHO team was not permitted access to the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis." Yes, the Israeli government does not want the World Health Organization to see the crimes being carried out.   Australia's ABC adds, "Mr al-Qidra said water supply to the hospital had halted because generators had been out of action for three days, sewage was flooding emergency rooms and the remaining staff had no way of treating intensive care patients.  Lack of oxygen supplies and no power has caused the deaths of at least seven patients, he said."  CNN notes, "Around 200 patients remain in the medical facility, which WHO teams were not permitted to enter on Friday or Saturday, and at least 20 patients need to be 'urgently referred' to other hospitals for medical treatment, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus."  ALJAZEERA reports:

    Osaid Alser, a Gaza surgeon and medical resident at Texas Tech University, says he has never seen any military activity while working at several medical centres in Gaza since 2010, including at the al-Shifa and Nasser hospitals.

    “When we talk about tunnels and all of that, I think this is Israeli propaganda that everybody should get used to at this point,” he told Al Jazeera.

    “Anybody who has worked in any of these hospitals, they can easily say this is just nonsense. We never had our access limited to any area in these hospitals. We could go to literally any area in the hospital and nobody would say stop.”

    Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Charm Free Marjorie" went up Friday.  The following sites updated: